Two Democratic sponsors of the bill that created the state’s takeover of Atlantic City allege Jeffrey Chiesa has overstepped his powers and is endangering public safety.
The Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act “was designed to save money by careful planning, not by cutting public services to unsafe levels and endangering the safety of public employees, which I believe the designee (Chiesa) is now doing,” state Sen. Jim Whelan and Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo wrote in Superior Court filings supporting the Atlantic City fire union’s civil court battle against recently imposed changes to hours and pay.
It “was not intended to serve as a vehicle to change work schedules or other working conditions of firefighters,” the two wrote in identical but separate certifications posted online by Insider NJ.
The changes, which included increasing the firefighters’ workweek from 42 hours to 56 hour, appear to save no money and are ”likely to lead to exhausted and depleted firefighters and presents an undue safety risk, which was not intended by MSRA,” they wrote.
The act “limited (Chiesa) to stabilizing the finances of a municipality in need of recovery, not altering an ordinary work schedule in an unsafe manner likely to result in injury to the municipality’s employees or residents,” the local Democrats wrote.
The union is currently in a court battle with the state, which has also called for massive cuts to the number of firefighters in the city.
Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez halted the layoffs pending the outcome of the court fight. He has called for both sides to come back to the table to try to work things out.
Mendez allowed the other contract changes to go through, saying they would not cause irreparable harm.
“We must be cognizant of public safety concerns related to a depleted and understaffed public safety department,” the two men said they told Chiesa back in January, before the changes were implemented.
The union leadership did not immediately return requests for comment.
Download the filings here: https://www.insidernj.com/whelan-mazzeo-back-firefighters-suit-state/